Thursday, September 08, 2005

On Managing Natural Disasters...

One of the chain-mails floating on the net is about comparison between the recent Mumbai floods and the disaster that struck New Orleans - and how the two were handled so very differently.

It is an unfair comparison for number of reasons...

But this comparison - with a category 5 hurricane hitting Cuba last year - has much learning value for dealing with natural disasters (The following are excerpts from an article "The Two Americas" by Marjorie Cohn, which was published earlier this week. I have edited out the political content, but for those interested, the link to URL is given at the end of the post:

"Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

What is Cuban President Fidel Castro's secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, "the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go."

"Cuba's leaders go on TV and take charge," said Valdes.... "Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable" in Cuba, Valdes said. "Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin."

They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, "so that people aren't reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff," Valdes observed.

After Hurricane Ivan, the United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction cited Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation. ISDR director Salvano Briceno said, "The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does."

... Cuba, where homeland security means keeping the country secure from deadly natural disasters as well as foreign invasions,...

...When Hurricane Ivan hit Cuba, no curfew was imposed; yet, no looting or violence took place. Everyone was in the same boat.

Fidel Castro, who has compared his government's preparations for Hurricane Ivan to the island's long-standing preparations for an invasion by the United States, said, "We've been preparing for this for 45 years." ....


[Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.]

The Two Americas
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article10112.htm

1 comment:

jiri said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!